A couple of week ago we stated that we weren’t all that convinced of the mix of online meetings and smart phones. Our main objection was the small size of the devices’ displays. Nevertheless, we have to keep an open mind and objectively evaluate the current solutions. So we checked out the compatibility of all the web conferencing solutions on our list with iPhone / iPod touch, Blackberry, and Android.
A lot of vendors have already released smart-phone-friendly versions of their software. Astonishingly, the leaders as far as compatibility is concerned are the solutions below the top 5! Among the top 5 only WebEx and RHUB can be used on an iPhone. RHUB as a browser based solution, WebEx with its own app.
The combination of “runs on iPhone and Blackberry” is most common and currently Intercall Unified Meeting, IBM Lotus Live Meeting, Fuze Meeting, PGi Netspoke, and AT&T Connect are able to deliver.
Next to compatibility of online meeting solutions with smart phones we checked the compatibility with Apple’s iPad. Taken together, 30 per cent of our tested solutions offer web conferencing on either smart phone or iPad, which is ok for starters. Developers are working on the issue around the clock and we will keep you updated on the latest news.
We will now take our iPad and scrutinize the performance of single solutions. Oh, and naturally we inserted the info on which tool is compatible with which device into our overall ranking.
Our first impression of PGi Netspoke was: Wow! Neat interface, easy to use, and a feasible set of functionalities. Also, PGi Netspoke is one of the few web conferencing solutions that include a specific contingent of audio minutes in its pricing.
When looking more closely we noticed that pricing information is only available for the American market. That was the first turn-off. Other discoveries followed.
E.g. the invitation process is a bit complicated, there being no possibility for integration into Outlook. The tool can only be accessed by logging into the online portal, instead of offering access through the toolbar or a desktop-shortcut.
So PGi Netspoke really is a decent tool for online meetings, but not top-ten-material.
With it’s Magic Quadrant for web conferencing Gartner offers a comprehensive study of the web conferencing market which includes a detailed evaluation of online collaboration tools. Now we have been approached with a justifiable question: Why do their results differ from ours?
The answer lies within another question: What are you looking for in a web conferencing solution? Which brings us to the criteria of evaluation. Gartner takes a very close look not only at the software itself but also includes the vendor in its evaluation. Overall viability of the vendor e.g. has high priority. Here Gartner assesses the financial health of the provider and the placement of the web conferencing tool in question within the organization’s product portfolio. The marketing strategy of the vendor is also ranked high priority.
This prioritization naturally favors the big players who have the high marketing budgets and are financially better situated than a small vendor who just introduced his 1.0 version to the market.
We have a different focus when analyzing and evaluating web conferencing solutions. The web conferencing solutions we evaluate should e.g. offer an approach different or complementary to what Gartner calls the on-premises-model. Users should not be required to install additional hardware or software to their IT-infrastructure to run an online collaboration solution. We give vendors a higher ranking if they enable you to run the software without great preparatory effort (SaaS – Software as a Service). This is important to us since we test with small to medium businesses in mind, who often cannot afford the costly and time consuming installation. You can find a detailed description of our testing approach and evaluation criteria here.
Gartner also features tools that are not included in our ranking. Most of these tools have been rejected by us previously because they did not comply with our basic requirements, e.g. offering a free test version and pricing information. We will definitely take another look at AT&T Connect, Intercall Unified Meeting, and PGi Netspoke to see if they can be included in our ranking now.
If you know of other tools that we have not tested so far and you feel fit all our criteria for evaluation please let us know. We will definitely have a look at the suggestions.